Guest editorial: Perhaps our community should be less welcoming to conservatives
In a recent article about the community meeting regarding the Welcoming Schools program, The Park Record reported that some community members suggested that folks who hold so-called “conservative” views are the real marginalized people in our community. In addition, Allison Cook wrote a guest editorial making much the same point, and raised the specter of a “transgender menace” to women’s rights. Setting aside the fact that holding “conservative” positions is a choice, if anything, their ability to comment without fear of social repercussions provides evidence that so-called “conservative” views are well-respected in our community, while trans and queer folks are ostracized. As a Jew, as a feminist, and as a transgender woman, I’d like to suggest that perhaps our community should provide a less welcoming space for conservatives, rather than one that is more so.
Let’s start with the basics: We can all agree that there are certain views which people should not be able to openly express without fear of social consequence: supporting pedophilia, burning crosses and supporting Nazis come to mind. While freedom of speech clearly means that the government should not punish people for holding these opinions, it is reasonable for communities to protect ourselves from such harmful and dangerous views by ostracizing those who hold them. The tenets of contemporary “conservatism” include supporting the president as he cages children; preventing gender nonconforming people from using restrooms by subjecting us to restrictions based on the impossible-to-test-for “chromosomal sex”; using Jews and rhetorical props but attacking liberal Jews using antisemitic tropes; calling fascists “very fine people”; and preferring that transgender children commit suicide than have access to gender-affirming medical care. Why should we treat this ideology any different than other loathsome ideas? That somebody holds such views does not turn them into a member of a protected class, free from the social consequences of espousing and acting upon their beliefs. After all, it’s not like folks who hold “conservative” views are lacking for other options.
There are many political opinions that one can hold without sharing the morally repugnant beliefs that constitute today’s “conservatism.” Do residents believe in fiscal responsibility and limited government? Libertarianism a la Gary Johnson is far more fiscally responsible than the “conservatives” of the Republican party. Do residents think the status quo in America is alright? They should have another look at the centrism of presidential candidates like Joe Biden and John Delaney. Beyond these, there is a veritable buffet of policies which have been proposed by various strains by those to the left of America’s center.
The views which one can hold without harming the community are practically infinite, however, all these views share one thing in common: they leave no room for the bigotries of racism, homophobia, antisemitism and transphobia. Parkites can continue to have a vigorous and illuminating debate about the policy issues that America faces today without giving any ground to the grim and cruel ideological legacy to which modern-day “conservatives” are heir. We should feel no regret in ostracizing those who support this hate-filled ideology until they choose to recognize the hurt they cause and make T’shuva, a Jewish tradition of returning to the path of righteousness. Only then can they, too, be accepted in the diverse, inclusive community the rest of us Parkites are trying to build. We will welcome them, as we should everyone, with open arms.
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In the wake of the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, PJ Falten has been thinking about the “fallen heroes who gave their lives so that something like last Wednesday could never happen on sacred ground. … What would they have thought?”